& ODILE HAINAUT
Meet the co-founders of WantedDesign, a design experience complete with installations, pop-up shops, workshops, and more that draws thousands of visitors each year.
UPCOMING: MADE IN BROOKLYN HOLIDAY MARKET
This November 22-23rd at Industry City
274 36th Street
Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Their partnership may only be a few years old, but together, Claire Pijoulat and Odile Hainaut have the relaxed air of lifelong collaborators. Certainly, what they’ve accomplished in just four years is enough to comprise a decade’s work — they are, after all, co-founders of WantedDesign, a trailblazing NYCxDESIGN event that takes place each May in Manhattan. (Last year, attendance surpassed 10,000.)
At present, they’re busy planning what will be its fifth anniversary in 2015. “We’re very thoughtful about how we’d like to evolve,” Odile says. Adds Claire: “We’ve worked like crazy since the day we started. But we’re passionate. We’re curious. And we’re always excited to discover new things and to work with new people. People ask us, how do you do it? That’s how. And that’s why.”
Tell us about your backgrounds. Have you always been interested in design?
CP: I was born into the design world. My parents ran a design boutique in Annecy, France, and my two uncles ran furniture and housewares stores in Lyon and Paris. I grew up with Alessi objects in my home, and at the store, I would do my homework on shelves filled with design accessories. My parents started taking me to Paris twice a year to attend trade shows starting when I was eight-years-old. Later, I studied business in France and Italy. As a student, I was always working — managing my parents’ store, or working with their suppliers at trade shows. In my third year, I was hired by Roche Bobois International as a stylist and merchandising assistant, and when I finished my Masters, I was offered the position of Marketing Manager in New York. That was nine years ago.
OH: I studied literature, performing arts, art history, and music. I spent over 18 years as the Director of Communications in Paris at a design and branding company called Raison Pure, but I’ve been based in New York since 1999. In May 2007, I co-founded Gallery R’Pure, which introduces the work of new and emerging furniture, lighting, and object designers to the New York design marketplace. When it opened, I started going to design fairs in London and Paris, but I always felt something was missing in New York. I thought, what can I do? I began working on various projects to make that happen. Then, when I met Claire, we started dreaming about what we could do during Design Week.
CP: I was working at Roche Bobois, but I wanted to branch out and get a sense of the larger design scene in the city. New York is such an interesting and active place — I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t more going on in the world of design here. When I met Odile, we realized we had the same desire to shake things up a little bit, and to create something special that didn’t exist in the design community at the time.
Did working together come naturally right away? What is your dynamic like as a team?
OH: We share a vision but we have different skills. I’m more on the curatorial, programming, and development side of things, but there's always non-stop brainstorming between the two of us. We have the same energy.
CP: We work wonderfully as a team. We each have strengths, and our tasks are split very easily. My focus is a little more marketing and business-oriented. But at the end of the day, we make decisions together — and we agree 99% of the time. It’s always a conversation. Our work is also our life, so the collaboration feels very organic. We live it.
Is there a favorite memory that comes to mind when you think back on the process of starting WantedDesign?
OH: It was our first encounter. We started talking and we realized that we had the same vision. We had an idea that we both embraced. When our conversation ended, we had this feeling of, okay, let’s do it.
CP: For me, it’s the opening night of the second edition of WantedDesign, when we learned we had a line around the block to get in. We realized we’d made it. The most emotional memory. We looked at each other, we couldn’t believe it.
Now that you're four years in, what does a day in the life of claire and odile look like?
OH: There's always a lot going on. WantedDesign is a collaborative event, so we spend a lot of time on conference calls, talking to different people about how they can be a part of it. It's also important for us to know what's happening each day in the design world, so we visit blogs and read magazines and the news. Then maybe we'll attend an opening or an event, then run home to pick up our kids. It's a lot, but we don't think of it as a job. It's just what we do. And we love it. We love working with people. There's no better day than when we have a phone call with a French designer, and then another with someone from Argentina, and then we meet with a collaborator who's based in New York. That's exciting for us.
Would you say that the collaboration aspect of working on WantedDesign the most inspiring part of the experience overall?
CP: My favorite part is meeting new people. We’ve met so many wonderful people since starting WantedDesign — in New York and in the U.S., but also from all over the world.
OH: The work we do during the year in preparation for Wanted is very exciting. We’re hoping to continue to evolve, and to produce more events — not just in New York, but in different parts of the United States, as well. There is so much to do here, and so many opportunities.
To close, we'd love to know more about your experience working in the city. What do you love about New York, and being a part of the design community here?
OH: New York City is very inspiring. It's non-stop stimulation. You can't walk two blocks without seeing something interesting, whether it's a person, or a new store, or something happening in the street. I'm from Paris originally, which is a beautiful city for the arts and cultural exchanges and for spending time and looking around, but New York is a beautiful city to get inspired and be creative. It's a great place to produce something.
CP: We love working in New York. It's so dynamic, and the design community is very proactive. We've felt very welcomed, and it's refreshing for us as French people to see that New Yorkers are so responsive to new ideas. It's been good for us to collaborate with others, as well. We've received a lot from the community, and I think we've given back a lot, as well.